I suppose that it’s good news when your blog views remain steady even though you haven’t updated in almost a week.
I know you were just sick with
for the next blog entry.
I kept you supplied with a steady dose of the stifled artist world for weeks on end, almost every single day. Then, for some reason, I petered off for a few days. Whatever, I’m not going to dwell on it.
Frankly, I am overwhelmed by how much positive feedback I’ve gotten from this blog. I initially started it as a way to connect with other artists. I felt extremely isolated, working nine to five jobs when the life I had always pictured for myself was one in which I was out there living the dream. But I was not sure what exactly the dream was, only that it involved bright lights and attention and some form of notoriety–the good kind. It also involved not being caught in the wheel of suburban consumption, riding my bike more and living closer to the land. Lofts and peers and readings and music collaborations with solid musicians.
It took me years, but somehow, magically this year I started finding my peeps. Through this blog–But mostly through my real life and the people in my real life reading this blog. It’s always nice to hear someone say, “Your blog is great. I thought I was the only person who felt that way.” And this last week, I heard it quite a few times. I also got a text message from my mom saying my dad had just read one of my blogs out loud to her.
Yikes. My parents are reading my blog…
I knew this would happen someday. I have my blog linked to my twitter which is linked to the bottom of every email I send out. It’s also in my bio and on my website. Part of being an artist today is marketing YOU as an artist.
I never felt amazing about marketing ME as an artist, but I keep chugging along, regardless. There was the me I believed I was, the me everyone else saw, and the me I wanted to be. I decided at some point just to start pretending I was the me I wanted to be. And I’m kind of overwhelmed by the results. Other people are believing I’m the me I always wanted to be, because I pretended and then became more of the me I always wanted to be.
Fake it until you make it.
I grew up rather secretive. Mormon upbringing and all, my normal macabre thoughts didn’t quite fit the tadpole demographic, if you know what I mean. I wasn’t sure about all that religion stuff, and I wanted some more excitement than suburbia offered, so I started exploring. First, I explored through music and books. I listened to the radio. I borrowed contraband cassette tapes–nothing more dangerous than Oingo Boingo–from the older kids in my neighborhood.
In fact, a memory appears of banging on my neighbor’s door late one night, begging his older brother for some tape, any tape, because my mom had confiscated my copy of the Back to the Future soundtrack. I was listening to it all day EVERY day on my walkman and it was driving her nuts. She gave me some excuse, like it was bad for me to listen to it so much, and I was truly devastated. Huey Lewis’s “The Power of Love” made me feel like I was GOING someplace, even if it was merely adding an interesting musical backdrop to my earnest scribbling on the whiteboard in my room. He, thank the lord, handed me White Lion, a nebulous, vague name describing absolutely nothing but sounding very legit because a) I’d never heard of it before and b) it came from an older BOY and that was just cool.
(The following song, in my fourth grade brain, was one of the best songs in the ENTIRE WORLD. They were singing to me. And listen to that echo on their voices…stellar ’80s echo. Oh, and don’t forget the obligatory sad guitar solo.)
I also explored through my pen and my words. I was accepted to the gifted education program, but was much more interested in being “cool,” which meant that I worked very hard to get bad grades (believe me, it was difficult. I was proud of my first F in fourth grade) and sassed the teachers, bringing bubble gum to school and opening my coat New York scam artist style when the cute boys were anywhere near my vicinity, in order to showcase my collection of bubble yum flavors.
While the kids in GATE were working on a book of poetry, becoming the little hard workers they would need to be to ever succeed in the arts, I was trying to become the most popular girl in school. Bubble gum became cigarettes and writing in notebooks became hitchhiking across the country and pretty soon I found myself in a behavior modification school in Jamaica, then back home attempting that thing called Mormanism.
Obviously, that didn’t stick.
What I learned as a kid was that what I wanted (music, exploration, attention) was bad, and the only way to get it was to be sly about it, and to do things behind people’s backs. Because gum made me popular, but was contraband. Because music made me feel good, but was subject to confiscation. Because writing could get me in trouble, as it did when my friend left all of our letters out on the table in English class and I got reprimanded and sent to the counselor’s office for the terrifying content of my real life stories.
Turns out I could have had those things just by doing what I’ve been doing the past couple of years: being open and honest with people, not expecting anything in return. Being me.
I just finished reading a memoir called Guts by Kristen Johnston, and this was the core concept of the book. It didn’t glamorize her pill addiction–she was a functional addict for years before her stomach exploded and spilled all the contents through her system, almost killing her. What she talks about in her book is always wanting to be “other,” growing up, escaping through books and pills and whatnot, and hoping that success would finally give her the happiness she had always been looking for. If she became famous, she said in the book, then she wouldn’t be her anymore. She would be “other.”
Makes perfect sense to me. I had that same idea once, too. But the more successful I get at what I’m doing–the more I get what I want–the more I freak out and pull back and start to reassess what I’m really in this for in the first place.
What am I in this for?
What I was always in this for. Music, exploration, attention. We all want to belong. If we grow up not fitting in, we seem to develop this sense of terminal uniqueness–feeling like no one will ever understand us. But what I’m learning (and continuing to push myself to learn without freaking out and stopping) is that when I share things with other people and am honest, I find my peeps. I find community. And what really matters the most is that I don’t feel isolated and alone.
I realize now (and I always believed, thus the constant searching) that there are many others like me and that they feel not so alone when I share with them and visa versa. What other way can I take all the mistakes I’ve made and lessons I’ve learned the hard way and turn it into one of the most powerful tools I know to help other people turn their lives around or simply learn how to be themselves? I can only share what I know. I’m no good at fiction. So I write what I know. My life.
Before this devolves into some cheeseball self-help blog entry, I think what I was trying to say today is that lately, I’m kind of freaking out about the progress I’m making towards my goals. I still have so far to go, but what I’m learning more than anything is that the boulder in the way is really just me.
Often I keep myself from succeeding because I’m scared of succeeding. If I do, I won’t have ambition keeping me from being alone with me. Then, I will just have me. I will have succeeded and there won’t be anything “other” to focus on.
Of course, once I succeed, then I will probably just want something else and the whole process will start over again.
Which is why I’m only making small goals for myself lately–read in public. Finish an essay. Land another article in a publication you’d like to be in (success! I just landed three articles with a publication I’ve been trying to get in for a year and am about to wrap up the second and third columns for a music trade magazine I’ve been having a lot of fun writing for). Play a show in public. Collaborate with new musicians.
Because the goal here is never to lose what matters: the art itself. I get itchy when I get trapped in the commercial side of my art: produce, produce, produce on a wheel-like schedule. Not me. The reason I do this stuff (freelancing, music, writing) is because I enjoy it and I’m good at it and it helps me figure out who I am and how to connect with other people.
Money is secondary. Sorry, but to me, it is. It comes as a byproduct of the hard work, just like they all say, and if you believe you’ll be taken care of (at least in my experience) you will. You catch more success with honey than you do with vinegar, so those positive thoughts and beliefs (people care, they like my work, what I do matters, I will find my peeps) are exactly right. Negativity, I’m learning, breeds more negativity. I’m trying to eradicate it. It’s hard. Especially with being sick so much lately, especially right after a great trip to PDX and Seattle. But somehow, I’m getting through. And resonating with peeps. And that’s all that matters to me, right now. It can only get better from here.